I usually consider cooking to be a relaxing, almost meditative activity. But sometimes, life needs to be easier. There are days when I want dinner to be quick and to require very little thinking, and that’s often when I (and you, too, I suspect) turn to pasta. Pasta is the king of the quick and easy dinner. You can mix almost anything into a bowl of pasta and it will turn out great. It requires few dishes, and a minimal amount of time, leaving you the rest of your evening to unwind and feel refreshed enough to face the rest of the week.
The best easy pasta dishes bring together different flavors and textures, and end up so wildly colorful and bright tasting that you can hardly believe it only took 20 minutes to get it on the table. This particular pasta dish absolutely achieves that objective. The mushrooms and pasta are chewy and tender, the broccoli big and crunchy, and it’s all tied together with a little slip of cream and goat cheese. The sun-dried tomatoes and basil bring big blockbuster summer flavor to the party.
The thing about pasta like this is that it shouldn’t stress you out. This is a guideline. If you don’t have leeks, use an onion or a shallot. Don’t have fresh basil? Use parsley, or maybe a dollop of pesto. Want asparagus or cauliflower instead of broccoli? Ok. Heck, if you’d rather mix all these fresh vegetables up with rice, or some tiny, soft new potatoes instead of pasta, I bet it would still be delicious. Easy dinners are all about improvising and using what you like and what you have on hand.
A note about the cream: It ties the whole dish together, and it’s really not very much cream at all. Not enough, I think, to make you worry about your diet. But if it makes you anxious, you can leave it out, and use a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water instead.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 leek, trimmed and sliced
- about 2 cups of chopped mushrooms
- ½ pound of pasta (small shapes work best)
- about ½ cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes
- ⅓ cup fresh, chopped basil
- 1 medium head of broccoli
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- about 1 teaspoon demiglace (totally optional, see the note)
- 2 tablespoons soft goat cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s nice and hot, add about a tablespoon of olive oil, and the chopped up leek. Let the leek cook until it begins to soften, then add the chopped mushrooms, and a sprinkling of salt. Let the mushrooms cook, stirring only occasionally, until they are soft and turning a lovely golden color, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add a touch more olive oil if the situation starts looking dry.
- Now your water should be boiling: Add the pasta and let it cook, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking.
- Add the sun-dried tomatoes to the mushroom mixture and stir. Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Chop up the broccoli: remove the stems and cut any really large florets into smaller pieces.
- When the pasta has about a minute to go, add the broccoli to the pasta pot and give it a good stir. Add the basil to the mushroom pan, and stir. When the pasta is done, and the broccoli has cooked for about a minute, drain them (reserving pasta water if you’d like) and stir the pasta and broccoli into the mushroom mixture.
- Add the cream, the demiglace, and the goat cheese to the pasta-mushroom mixture and stir stir stir over low heat. The cream and goat cheese should coat everything quite nicely. Be sure that the demiglace is totally dissolved and stirred in so no one finds a chunk of saltiness in their dish.
- Season if needed with salt and pepper and serve.